Today, we will hear from Tony Jones:
Maybe you’ve seen this before: some well-meaning evangelist spray-paints “jesus is the answer” on the side of a railroad bridge. Then some smart aleck comes by later and adds “so what’s the question?”
It seems to many emergents that the question is difficult, intricate: What is the meaning of life? Why is there evil in the world? How is God involved in our lives? Just what is the “Kingdom of God”? How can we be involved in God’s work in the world? These are hard questions, and they demand nuanced, complex answers. So we fight back against a world that vaunts simple solutions to complex problems, and we do so, first, by encouraging the questions. Making room for the questions is one of the aspects of emergent Christianity that many seekers appreciate. As a result, emergent Christians often get labeled as “slippery.” They’re told they don’t answer questions directly but answer instead with another (often deconstructive) question. But, these questions are actually attempts to get to the assumptions underlying the initial question.
So questioning is not an act of defiance on the emergents’ part. It is a trait of integrity.
When someone asks, “What is the Gospel, in a nutshell?” I often quote my friend, philosopher of religion Jack Caputo, who wrote of the philosophical impulses of “deconstruction”: “Nutshells close and encapsulate, shelter and protect, reduce and simplify, while everything in deconstruction is turned toward opening, exposure, expansion, and complexification, toward releasing unheard of, undreamt of possibilities to come, toward cracking nutshells wherever they appear.”
This statement could just as easily be made about the gospel, the Kingdom of God, or Jesus himself.
Tony Jones is the national coordinator of Emergent Village and the author of the book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, from which the above passage is an excerpt.